Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined world leaders on Monday, in commemorating the historic 75th anniversary Summit of the United Nations in New York. The fact that despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, world leaders had overcome logistics and other challenges to gather in the virtual meeting demonstrated the enduring appeal of the United Nations as a unique multilateral institution.
The United Nations and its specialized agencies, as well as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, were established by the victorious Allied powers at the end of the Second World War. The special contribution of 2.5 million volunteer troops from India, the largest such contingent from any of the Allied armies, played a big role in India’s participation in the creation of the United Nations and its structures 75 years ago.
The Prime Minister recalled India’s presence at the 1945 San Francisco Conference in June 1945 when she signed the UN Charter as a founding signatory. He said that “a new hope arose from the horrors of war” which laid the foundation for the creation of an institution for the entire world. On this occasion, the Prime Minister paid tribute to all those who furthered the cause of peace and development under the UN flag.
The Prime Minister’s address provided a framework for India’s activism in the United Nations, which has given substance to the provisions of the UN Charter, resulting in the democratization of international relations. India’s independence from colonial rule generated the momentum for the UN’s success in decolonization. As a result, scores of newly independent former colonies entered the UN General Assembly as equal and sovereign member-states. They have participated in decisions taken by the General Assembly based on the democratic principle of one-country one-vote.
Prime Minister Modi emphasized that India has upheld an integrated approach to peace, security and development. India has been the largest contributor to the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. Yet, he said, “the original mission of the UN remains incomplete”.
India’s vision for the reformed United Nations is of holistic development, respect for all forms of life, and nonviolent conflict resolution. Due to her civilizational vision of Vasudhaiva Kutambakkam, which sees all creation as one family, India has led efforts to give substance to the principle of equitable international cooperation, which is at the heart of the work of the United Nations.
The Prime Minister emphasized that the greatest challenges to the United Nations agenda today needed a candid assessment of the effectiveness of the United Nations to respond collectively to them. To ensure that the response of the United Nations to these challenges was effective, the Prime Minister called for comprehensive reforms of the United Nations to restore its credibility and relevance.
Referring to the “far-reaching” Declaration adopted by world leaders at the meeting, the Prime Minister called for a commitment to implement its vision. This included the commitment in the Declaration for reform of the United Nations itself. “We cannot fight today’s challenges with outdated structures”, he said, reiterating that without comprehensive reforms, the UN faces a crisis of confidence. The Declaration calls for instilling “new life” into reforming the UN Security Council, while continuing to revitalize the General Assembly and strengthen the Economic and Social Council. The Prime Minister felt that the objectives in the Declaration for inclusive sustainable development, climate action, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, reducing inequalities, and leveraging digital technologies would remain meaningless in the absence of such urgent measures.
Prime Minister reasserted India’s belief that the path to sustainable peace and prosperity was through multilateralism. “For today’s inter-connected world, we need a reformed multilateralism”, he said. This was needed for the United Nations to reflect present realities and empower all stakeholders to tackle common challenges with a focus on human welfare.
Script: Amb. Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Former Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations